Ontario finds its “way out of wilderness” with new leadership
Cornerstone Community Church, Virgil, Ont.
The Ontario Conference of MB Churches ushered in a new era of leadership at their 81st annual convention in Virgil, Ont., Feb. 17–18, as they elected a new governance board and handed over provincial church planting activities to C2C Network. Karen West, pastor of missional initiatives at Waterloo MB Church, will serve as chair of the new board of directors, while Kevin Bayne, lead pastor at Cornerstone Community Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, will fill the seat of vice-chair.
On Nov. 19, 2011, delegates at a special convention voted in favour of a new leadership structure, which took effect at the close of the February convention. The 11-member board of directors welcomes several new faces (Bayne, Michelle Knowles, Rafiqua Masih, Paul McIlwraith, Chris Stevens, and Michael Stork) as well as past leaders (West, Thom Braun, David Fowler, Pat Goertzen, and Ingrid Reichard), and replaces the province’s former leadership council, board of faith and life (BFL), and board of church extension (BOCE). The work of the BFL and BOCE will be done by committee members appointed by the new board.
The convention theme, “Behold, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19), set the tone for conversation and decision-making among 170 delegates and 19 guests. “Don’t ever think of your day as ‘same old, same old,’” said Bill Stubbs of Glencairn MB Church, Kitchener. “God is active within us, always doing a new thing.”
In this spirit, the nominating committee – with a mandate to “duly process and discern” all candidates – came with an election slate of 12 candidates, following a rigorous process of interviews, questionnaires, and reference checks.
However, some churches felt that “qualified candidates had been removed from the ballot” and requested leadership council review the slate. The council then presented a recommendation to expand the slate to include all 16 original nominees. The nominating committee disagreed with the move but agreed to submit to the council’s authority.
Several delegates expressed their disapproval over the recommendation. “I’ve been looking for a long time for God to do a new thing,” said Hart Wiens of Waterloo MB Church. “Why would leadership council introduce something so divisive?”
“I’m sure the nominating committee has done due diligence – the leg work and the knee work. Let’s trust their decision,” said another delegate.
Following a vote from the floor, delegates struck down the leadership council’s recommendation.
In response, Vidya Narimalla of Kitchener MB Church recommended that each candidate meet a 75% approval threshold in order to be elected, rather than the standard 50% plus one. Delegates also voted in opposition of this recommendation.
In the end, West was elected with 70.6% approval and Bayne with 94%. “It was so amazing to watch God at work at Saturday’s convention,” said West, “building on our past, in order to do a new thing in Ontario. I believe our delegates will do whatever is necessary to demonstrate God’s kingdom in a very needy world, even if it means sacrificing personal preferences in order to help make a way through the wilderness.”
New church planting partnership
Following a presentation by national church planting director Gord Fleming, delegates also overwhelmingly agreed to make C2C Network the province’s church planting arm. Although there was little conversation from the floor, Sandy Young from Port Rowan MB Church hoped his “conservative province” would be able to “accept the risk-taking and vibrancy of C2C.”
“We’re 100 percent in favour of this move,” said former BOCE chair Ed Willms. “Let’s stand with arms locked across this country.”
C2C, an MB-initiated, interdenominational church planting network, desires to be both Spirit-led and a model of good systems and management. “We want to advance the kingdom by giving everything away,” said Fleming. “All our best practices, our systems, our great ideas – let’s send them to everybody!”
Willms reported on some of Ontario’s newest church planting efforts, including the work of a church planting apprentice in Parry Sound, who will be serving among the nine First Nations reserves in the area. Willms also said The Gathering in Ottawa is planning to establish a daughter church in the city’s Orleans neighbourhood.
Next steps for the board
The first priority for Ontario’s board of directors will be the transition to C2C. “We will be looking for a smooth transition of Terry Wiseman’s staff position from Ontario’s director of church extension to a regional director role with C2C,” said West.
The board will also begin a process to hire a new executive director, following the resignation of conference minister Richard Martens last December. “It’s the role of our new governance board to oversee and hold accountable this staff person in areas of vision, mission, and values,” explained West. “It will be our job to position, empower, support, and uphold the executive director as he or she drives the vision our conference has set forth.”
“In the end,” said West, “this is all about lost people finding Christ – not so we can grow our churches, but so we can serve the heart of our Father in heaven, who has given all that he is for the sake of us.”